I’m sure we’ve all talked about this before, but it’s been on my mind of late: negative scent associations that mean a perfume will never work for us. Sometimes it’s obvious, a person we found difficult drenched themselves in a scent, and now we don’t care for it. But often it’s a more subtle and layered experience.
The sight of the black Lanvin Arpege bottle with its gold embossed mother and child will always make me feel a combination of guilt, sadness and anxiety. My mother wore Arpege, and this bottle has an almost claustrophobic effect on me. I prefer my perfume to be, at its very worst, dreadfully dull. I do not like it when perfume triggers a horrible flashback of feelings, a sudden reminder that yes, you have these feelings, and here they are in a big feeling vomit, enjoy! Many years ago, I bought a bottle of Lanvin Arpege after convincing myself I would redeem it, and it would be only about good associations. Sadly, the mother and child motif was too much, and when I finally swapped it away, I was relieved. I think if you had a great relationship with your mom, and she wore this scent the bottle would be the sweetest thing! Maybe you can’t bottle maternal love, but for myself personally Lanvin Arpege mockingly bottles the absence of it. I do not have a rational relationship with this perfume.
Another Odor Horribilis for me is anything with a whiff of campfire. I like my smoke scents to smell like an ashtray left rotting under the couch in a sharehouse. The moment we trek out into the woods with a bonfire burning I shut down hard. Having lived through several bushfires and known beautiful folk who didn’t make it, I absolutely cannot abide this smell, this burning, burning smell. It will never be a scent of pleasure again. I do remember a time in my childhood when it was one of those “best smells ever” and all about camping, singing and eating too much sugar… But that’s another Narth. There is a Naomi Goodsir fragrance I’ve never tried because of the bonfire note. As the SA was enthusiastically listing the notes, I said “NO” rather too firmly and then sheepishly mentioned bushfires. She immediately understood, and we moved on to something happily floral.
Perfume is powerful stuff. I’ve had several long perfume breaks where I stopped thinking about it at all, but negative associations would still throw themselves at me against my will. Smell, the sense most people value the least, has been busy building a personal history with us all our lives.
I’d love to hear your own associations, if you want to share, of scents you would rather not revisit.
Photo by me, during our long summer of bushfire smoke. This was reality for many weeks and the smell filled the house.